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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 30, 2003

Specialists At UI Hospitals And Clinics Use ‘Camera In A Pill’

Specialists in digestive disorders at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics reported today that they plan to use the endoscopic capsule, or the "camera in a pill," to help more than 150 patients during the first year of the technology's availability.

The capsule is about the size of a multivitamin. Patients swallow the capsule with a sip of water and it passes naturally through the stomach and intestines. It contains a camera that transmits images from the patients' digestive tract to a recording device worn on a belt around the waist. Eight hours after ingesting the disposable capsule, the patient returns the recorder belt to their physician.

Physicians can insert flexible tubes that contain cameras to examine portions of the digestive tract. However, endoscopes can only examine the upper portions of the digestive system, while colonoscopes study the colon. That leaves about 20 feet of the small intestine that cannot be effectively viewed with standard tests.

"The endoscopic capsule helps fill in that gap," said David Ramkumar, M.D., assistant professor (clinical) of internal medicine in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and a gastroenterologist at UI Hospitals and Clinics. "It provides a view of that middle portion of the digestive tract that we have not had previously."

The camera pill provides a non-invasive diagnostic option for patients with disorders such as unexplained bleeding, Crohn's disease, Celiac disease and intestinal tumors. The technology records between 50,000 and 55,000 high quality color images. Specialists then review a video created from these images for any abnormalities. Results show that the tiny device detects abnormalities in 60 to 70 percent of cases with an appropriate indication, a diagnostic yield that is superior to that of all other conventional tests combined.

"This very small camera cannot see everything, but it's better than everything else we have available," Ramkumar said. "This approach provides consistently superior results."

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the camera pill in December 2001 for patients with unexplained bleeding that cannot be pinpointed by other means. UI Hospitals and Clinics specialists charge $1,200 to conduct an imaging study using the advanced technology for patients referred by their personal physician. Insurance companies typically cover the bill for the test.

Specialists say the camera in a pill is a not a replacement for colonoscopy. The technique allows patients to continue their normal daily activities while the test is in progress.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

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